A Santa Cruz County judge imposed a 2.5-year prison sentence on a Mexican man who was stopped while trying to leave the country with more than $2,400 that he allegedly said had been earned from smuggling marijuana.

Jose Aboyte Castro, 39, of Agua Caliente, Sinaloa, was sentenced by Judge Thomas Fink on June 8 after he pleaded guilty to attempted money laundering, a Class 4 felony. The judge gave him credit for 116 days already served prior to sentencing.

Court documents show that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were conducting outbound inspections at the Mariposa Port of Entry on Oct. 28, 2015 when they stopped a vehicle driven by a woman in which Aboyte was the passenger.

When officers asked the two if they were carrying currency greater than $10,000, Aboyte said he had approximately $2,000 with him.

The officers determined that Aboyte was in the country without proper documentation, and when he was being processed for that offense, a pat-down turned up $2,433 on his person as well as a $20 bill containing a white powdery substance that was confirmed to be a half-gram of cocaine.

Aboyte reportedly told officers that he had crossed the border illegally from Sonoyta, Sonora, near Lukeville, Ariz., with a group of other people, and that he had crossed a load of approximately 44 pounds of marijuana, for which he was paid the cash in his possession.

Investigators from the HIDTA Task Force were called to the port, and Aboyte reportedly told them that he had been in the United States for nine days since crossing the border, and that he was going to pay his friend $200 for driving him back to Mexico from Phoenix.

He also allegedly admitted that it had been the seventh time he smuggled marijuana into the country.

However, during a pre-sentence interview on May 28, he told a probation officer that the cash he had with him at the time of his arrest was from cleaning yards, but he had no way to prove it.

It wasn’t clear from Aboyte’s sentencing documents why it took more than four-and-a-half years to adjudicate his case, but online court records show several warrants issued for his arrest in Nogales Justice Court, as well as two criminal charges for failure to appear, which were later dropped.

Meth smuggler gets three-year prison term

Luis Antonio Bojorquez Urbalejo, 48, of Navojoa, Sonora, was sentenced on June 8 at Santa Cruz County Superior Court for trying to smuggle a methamphetamine load through the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.

Bojorquez was arrested at the port on Sept. 26, 2019, after an X-ray of his vehicle and an alert from a drug-sniffing dog led U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to find 31 suspicious packages in a pair of non-factory compartments built into the vehicle’s frame. The packages turned out to contain 33.5 pounds of meth.

According to his pre-sentence report, Bojorquez initially claimed that he was unaware of the drug load, and implied that the blame lay with a mechanic from Nogales, Sonora, whom he said had worked on his car after it broke down in Arizona.

However, according to a probation officer who prepared the report, Bojorquez provided a written statement in which he “justified his actions by stating that he had an illusion to give his daughter a 15th birthday party.”

He pleaded guilty to a Class 3 drug smuggling offense and Judge Thomas Fink sentenced him to three years in prison, with credit for 255 days served.

Bus passenger convicted on two drug offenses

A 21-year-old Tucson man was convicted of two Class 4 felony drug offenses at Santa Cruz County Superior Court for trying to sneak heroin and methamphetamine into the United States on a passenger bus from Mexico.

On June 8, Judge Thomas Fink sentenced Emanuel Isai Moreno to 1.5 years in prison for each conviction, with the sentences to run concurrently, or at the same time. He also gave Moreno credit for 128 days served prior to sentencing.

Court records show that on Jan. 23, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were searching an inbound bus at the Mariposa Port of Entry when they discovered five pounds of meth in bundles hidden under a seat, and 36 grams of heroin in a ball-shaped bundle in the bathroom.

A witness told officers he had been woken up by Moreno, who kept pushing against the back of his seat. The person said they had also seen Moreno go into the bathroom.

What’s more, a drug-sniffing dog alerted to a suspicious scent coming from Moreno’s back pocket. And so he was arrested, taken to the county jail and prosecuted in the local court system.

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